Homily – December 21, 2014

Today’s gospel tells of that moment in time when God intruded into the lives of a young engaged couple living in a backwater village called Nazareth. Theirs was a simple life. The engaged Mary was probably making plans for her upcoming wedding. It would be a simple affair. Her future husband probably 16 years old, was an apprenticed carpenter and like Mary a person of limited means.

Luke’s telling of the angel’s visit to Mary and the consequences of that visit, that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the most high would overshadow her and her child would be holy and called the Son of God teaches us that the history of Jesus does not emerge out of the stream of ongoing history but tells us of the transcendental origin of the history of Jesus. God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one is being with the Father.

Gabriel promised Mary her son would be great, and would be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end.’

Mary’s answer to Gabriel’s mysterious message was, ‘be it done to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed and Mary’s life began to be complicated. When she returned home after going to help her aged cousin Elizabeth with the birth of John the Baptist, Mary’s pregnancy was obvious. Young Joseph was at his wits end. He decided to divorce Mary quietly, there would be no scandal. Then God intruded into Joseph’s life too. Trusting in the mysterious ways of God Joseph took Mary as his wife.

This Thursday we will be celebrating the birthday of Mary’s first born child.

Pope Paul V1 described Mary as ‘she whose life was available to God.’ She never took back her words,’ be it done unto me according to your word.’ Those words would cost Mary. She endured the long journey to Bethlehem and gave birth in stable. At Joseph’s insistence they fled to Egypt to protect their child’s life. After years of what we know as the ‘hidden years’ Jesus began to preach to the people that the kingdom of God was near. Mary must have worried about him as reports came back to Nazareth that Jesus was upsetting and making enemies of powerful people in Jerusalem. Then Mary was brought the startling news of Jesus’ arrest, his quick trial and his death sentence. Mary rushed to be with her son. We can’t imagine what went through her mind as she stood at the cross and looked at the beaten and naked body to which she had given birth. We can wonder if she remembered the words we just heard in the gospel; he will be great and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end.’ Such a memory would test her faith. How can this be – be it done unto me according to your word. Mary was ever faithful to these words even as she helped lay the body of Jesus in a borrowed tomb.

If we think about it, every time we say the Our Father we echo Mary’s words, be it done to be according to your word. Every time we say the Our Father we too make our lives available to God as we say ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done.’ These are easy words to say but not easy words to live especially when things go wrong in our lives. Thy will be done may challenges us to accept an unexpected illness in our life or a death of one we love. Thy will be done will challenge us to struggle with living Christ’s great commandment, ‘love one another as I have loved you or forgiving someone who has really wronged us. Be it done to me – these were no easy words for Mary to live – thy will be done – are not easy words for us to live, but we try and as always, some days we win and some days we lose.

As we come closer to the birth of Jesus we ask his loving and faithful mother for the help we need to say, with as much generosity as we can – be it done to me according to your word and like Mary try to make our lives available to God as we pray, thy will be done.